By: SARAH CAWTHON
Undocumented students could soon be guaranteed resident-rate tuition at state colleges in Indiana.
Senate Bill 345, sponsored by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, will make it possible for high school graduates who attended an Indiana high school for at least three years to attend a state college at the same in-state price tag as other resident students.
As the law stands now, undocumented students, often referred to as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students or Dreamers, at IU South Bend, are able to receive resident-rate tuition provided they meet certain criteria.
“At IUSB, we already grant residency to DACA students,” said Joe Roth, Coordinator for Diversity Recruitment at IUSB. “However, we can do it on the admission’s side most of the time. If it does go to the registrar, there are more hoops to jump through — more paperwork, more surveys, more questions. I think that if the bill is passed, it would bypass all of that and DACA students would be admitted with residency status.”
Right now, there are only a few colleges in the state of Indiana that offer residency to DACA students. Other colleges throughout the state are encountering problems trying to grant residency status to students, which the bill would rectify.
“This bill is, hopefully, going to make it so that the universities can grant residency to DACA students who have been here since they were children, who have pledged allegiance to the United States of America in school and have only known the US as their home,” said Roth.
Several of the DACA students have graduated from high school and resided in Indiana for most of their lives.
When students identify themselves as DACA status to the IUSB Admissions Office, they are asked to complete a short questionnaire about their residency in Indiana. While many students are granted residency status and the process ends here, if there are any other questions that need answered, students must then complete a five-page questionnaire and provide additional documentation to the Registrar’s Office. If residency status has still not been approved, students then have the option to send an appeal to the Standing Committee on Residency at the Bloomington campus.
With more paperwork often comes more worries for DACA students, which can sometimes deter them from further seeking resident-rate tuition.
“Deportation is always in the front of your mind,” explained Roth. “So, when you’re answering more questions that seem more government official, I think it can deter students and their parents from completing it.”
Roth recently attended the Indiana Latino Institute Legislative Breakfast where the Indiana General Assembly openly discussed their thoughts on the bill. Because the bill is still in the Senate, those in the House admitted to not yet seeing the bill, according to Roth, but “everyone seemed very hopeful that it will pass.”
“If the senate bill passes, what can be a several month ordeal could turn into an easy, five-minute process to receive in-state tuition,” said Roth.
According to Cynthia Murphy, recruitment and retention counselor for Latino and other underrepresented students at IUSB, “There isn’t a solid mechanism in place right now for reaching everyone on this very complicated issue.“
In August of 2012, Pres. Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“So, from July 2013 through November 2013, more students were coming to IUSB having received deferred action,” said Murphy, “which awarded the opportunity for work authorization, so they were working and paying taxes in Indiana.”
However, with out-of-state tuition prices at IUSB climbing to nearly $18,000, students need all of the help they can get financially to pay for their education.
“The provision that is still in place from Senate Bill 590 restricted university funds and dollars in the university overall budget from being allocated to students without legal status,” said Murphy. “They can, however, receive private foundational funds and funds that come from community groups or from their school.”
There are eight scholarships at IUSB that do not require a student to be a citizen or legal permanent resident in order to apply. However, these scholarships are not restricted to DACA students and are open to the entire campus, making the process very competitive.
“Anything that provides resident-rate tuition and removes any barrier or stereotype for students is bound to be a good thing,” said Murphy. “The number of Latino students in our public school systems are growing. Our communities have a vested interest in making sure that we provide access and, once students are here, that we provide the resources for them to be successful.”
If passed, the legislation will be effective for two years beginning July 1, 2015. It will be reexamined before extending it beyond the two years.
The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on January 28 with a vote of 8-4 and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.